BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA

ZIMBABWE international striker Nyasha Mushekwi has bounced back into the national soccer team- after he was named in a 34-member provisional squad ahead of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be held in Egypt next month.

The big forward who plays his club football in China, turning out for Dalian Yifang, last played for the Warriors at the Afcon finals in Gabon two years ago where Zimbabwe failed to go beyond the group stage.

Despite having been in prolific form at club level, he has been unable to feature for the Warriors with reports suggesting that there has been bad blood between him and the previous Zifa leadership.

Another theory that has been advanced was that he had been injured and needed to play only at his well-resourced club which had the capacity to manage him.

But whatever the reason for his failure to play for the national team, Mushekwi is an asset and helps in value-creation and that he has responded positively to the call by Warriors coach

Sunday Chidzambga has been applauded.

Mushekwi possesses those traits of most top forwards of intimidating the opposition without necessarily moving because of his huge frame. He is also powerful in the air and a good finisher too.

Apart from Mushekwi, Chidzambga has also called up South Africa-based goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, who turns out for Baroka FC and has been impressive at his club, helping them to win the Telkom Knockout Cup after stunning giants Orlando Pirates 3-2 to write a glorious piece of history for themselves by becoming the first Limpopo side to win a domestic top-flight cup competition.

The former Chicken Inn goalkeeper has since been nominated for the Telkom Knockout player of the tournament alongside Kaizer Chiefs forward Khama Billiat, who was nominated for the Nedbank Cup player of the tournament.

Another notable inclusion in the squad is former Caps United attacking midfielder Tafadzwa Rusike, who now plays his club football for Zanaco in Zambia. The 29-year-old has had a fairy-tale rise since joining Zambian giants last year, scoring 11 goals in 32 games.

Midfielder Thabani Kamusoko, who stars for Young Africans in Tanzania also makes a return. The Warriors technical team has, however, not given up hope on their pursuit of England-based striker McCauley Bonne, who has applied for a Zimbabwean passport to enable him to feature for the Warriors at the tournament.

They are also still talking to Czech Republic-based Costa Nhamoinesu with the hope of persuading him to change his mind after he had indicated he was retiring from international football.

Only five home-based players have made the cut among them Chapungu goalkeeper Talbert Shumba, FC Platinum defender Lawrence Mhlanga, Byron Madzokere (Yadah), Richard Hachiro (Herentals) and Leeroy Mavhunga (Yadah)

Team manager Wellington Mpandare said Chidzambga had named an enlarged squad to cater for both the Cosafa tournament and the friendly match against the Super Eagles of Nigeria, which are going to be used as dress rehearsal for the Afcon finals.

“We are going to play two matches at the Cosafa tournament and then 18 players will leave for Nigeria for the friendly match on June 8, while the rest remains in South Africa. Five players will then be picked to follow the 18 players in Nigeria to make a 23-member squad,” Mpandare said.

Zifa president Felton Kamambo, who also attended the Press conference, said they were still organising another friendly for the Warriors to be played on May 25 after they failed to agree with Ghana whom they had targeted to play on that date.

Goalkeepers

George Chigova (Polokwane City), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs), Elvis Chipezeze (Baroka), Talbert Shumba (Chapungu)

Defenders

Dennis Dauda (Lusaka Dynamos), Lawrence Mhlanga (FC Platinum), Jimmy Dzingai (Power Dynamos), Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars), Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Divine Lunga (Golden Arrows), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Tendai Darikwa (Nottingham Forest)

Midfielders

Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows), Marshall Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge), Butholezwe Ncube (AmaZulu), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Ovidy Karuru (AmaZulu), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Rusike (Zanaco), Richard Hachiro (Herentals), Talent Chawapihwa (AmaZulu), Leeroy Mavunga (Yadah), Knowledge Musona (Lokeren), Thabani Kamusoko (Young Africans), Rodwell Chinyengetere (Baroka)

Strikers

Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang), Evans Rusike (SuperSport United), Walter Musona (Polokwane City), Tinotenda Kadewere (Le Havre), Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows), Admiral Muskwe (Leicester City)

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